Researchers believe they have found the oldest known dental implant -- a tooth of wrought iron found in a skull in a French cemetery.
X-rays of the skull, a male believed to have lived about 1,900 years ago, show a perfect fit of the wrought-iron tooth in the upper-right part of the jaw. The newly created tooth apparently was implanted into the tooth socket more than a year before the man died.
Researchers say that the person who made the wrought-iron implant probably used the patient's original tooth as a model, and placed the tooth into his mouth very soon after the original lost tooth fell out.
An implant is an artificial tooth secured into the jawbone, allowing the wearer to eat and speak properly. Today's implants are tooth-root substitutes, which are surgically placed in the jawbone under the gum tissue. Then strong posts are attached to the implants to provide stable anchors for synthetic replacement teeth.
A 1,400 year-old jaw fragment found in Honduras showed that Mayans used pieces of shell to create crude dental implants. Ancient Etruscans in northern Italy are known to have made partial dentures, dental crowns and the simple tooth bridge as early as 2,500 years ago. However, researchers believe the French discovery to be the oldest example of a dental implant.
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